Larry Cheney (SABR-Rucker Archive)

May 12, 1915: Four-error inning sets tone for rainy, sloppy Cubs loss

This article was written by Kurt Blumenau

Larry Cheney (SABR-Rucker Archive)Even by the Chicago Cubs’ deep-rooted standards of frustration, the second inning of the Cubs-Brooklyn Robins game of May 12, 1915, was one to forget.

The Cubs committed four errors and a passed ball in the inning, helping the Robins to five runs and an early 7-1 lead at Ebbets Field. The home team cruised from there to an 11-5 win on a rainy, muddy, sloppy day. Cubs pitcher Larry Cheney worked the entire game; only four of the 11 runs against him were earned, in part because he contributed three of his team’s total of six errors. “It was a wretched game, played under wretched conditions,” summarized the New York Tribune.1

The Cubs’ outburst of sloppiness didn’t set a post-1900 record, as the 1902 Cleveland Blues and 1903 Pittsburgh Pirates had already committed six errors in an inning.2 And it’s not a team record either, as the Cubs made five errors in the first inning of a game against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 2, 1977. It’s merely an exceptional burst of poor play.3

Manager Wilbert Robinson’s Brooklyn team, in seventh place with a 9-13 record, entered the game with bigger concerns than the weather. Starting pitcher Jeff Pfeffer, the winner of 23 games in 1914, had fared poorly in his first three starts of the season. The big, fiercely competitive right-hander came in with an 0-2 record and a 4.85 ERA.4 The Robins had also lost the first game of a four-game set against the Cubs the previous day, 5-1, as Chicago’s George Pierce spun a complete-game four-hitter.5

Manager Roger Bresnahan’s Cubs, a fourth-place club in 1914, entered the game in second place with a 14-8 record and one tie, half a game behind the Philadelphia Phillies. The team had won 9 of its previous 11 games and was receiving league-best contributions from several players. Wilbur Good led the NL in hits (35), was tied for the lead in triples (5), and was third in the league with a .365 batting average. Vic Saier, who also had five triples, was one of two NL hitters with four home runs. Hippo Vaughn’s five wins on the mound ranked him second in the league behind Philadelphia’s Grover Alexander, and he led the loop in strikeouts with 42.

Starting pitcher Cheney was not doing as well. Like his counterpart Pfeffer, Cheney hadn’t won a game in 1915 either, entering with a 0-3 record and a 7.91 ERA. The right-handed spitballer6 was coming off a run of strong seasons: He’d led the NL with 26 wins in 1912, then followed that with 21 wins in 1913 and 20 in 1914. Although he’d been successful, he’d also been uncommonly wild. Cheney led the NL with 140 walks in 1914, and had also led the loop in wild pitches for three straight seasons with 18, 19, and 26.

Despite a steady rain that began before game time, umpires Cy Rigler, behind the plate, and Bill Hart, on the basepaths, allowed play to continue. One reporter speculated that the game was played to please several hundred US Navy sailors who were on hand as guests of the Robins. The Chicago Tribune reported that few other fans besides the sailors turned out, while other estimates of the attendance ranged from “seven hundred or so” to “some fifteen hundred.”7 (The Federal League’s Chicago Whales were also scheduled to play in Brooklyn that day. That game was postponed.8)

Pfeffer hit a batter and threw a wild pitch in the top of the first, but got through without yielding a run. Cheney didn’t do as well in the bottom half. Ollie O’Mara walked and was sacrificed to second. Casey Stengel, hitting .073, singled to center field, where Cy Williams fielded the ball and threw home. Depending on the account, Cheney either deflected Williams’s throw into foul ground or simply got in the way of catcher Jimmy Archer as Archer tried to field it.9 Either way, the ball rolled loose, O’Mara scored, Stengel moved all the way to third, and Cheney was saddled with an error. Zack Wheat led the 1915 Brooklyn team with 66 RBIs; he collected one here with a fly to left that brought Stengel home for a 2-0 Brooklyn lead.

The Cubs got one of the runs back in the top of the second. The hard-hitting Saier led off with a double to right field, and a pair of groundouts by Williams and Archer brought him around to make the score 2-1. A two-out double by Art Phelan went for naught as Cheney grounded out.

The inning of the Cubs’ discontent followed. Hi Myers reached on shortstop Bob Fisher’s errant throw to first. Joe “Germany” Schultz laid down a bunt; several fielders converged on the ball but none covered first, a mental error to add to the Cubs’ physical mistakes.10 Lew McCarty doubled, scoring Myers and moving Schultz to third. Pfeffer singled in Schultz for a 4-1 lead, advancing McCarty to third. Cheney scooped up O’Mara’s grounder to the mound and threw wildly to first, pulling Saier off the bag for another error. The other runners held while O’Mara reached first safely, loading the bases.11

A passed ball by Archer – on a “good pitch,” in the judgment of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle12 – allowed McCarty to score and the other runners to advance. Cheney retired Daubert on a fly and got Stengel to hit into a fielder’s choice, as the score held momentarily at 5-1. Cheney then made the mistake of trying to pick Stengel off first. His throw went wild for the inning’s third error as O’Mara scored and Stengel advanced to second. Wheat singled to right to score Stengel. Good made another off-target throw returning the ball to the infield for the Cubs’ fourth error of the inning – described by the Daily Eagle as “a huge heave to nowhere in particular” – handing Wheat second base.13 George Cutshaw, the Robins’ ninth hitter of the inning, struck out to hold matters at 7-1.

The Cubs took advantage of a Brooklyn miscue to score a run in the top of the third. Fisher hit a one-out double to left field, and one out later he took third when shortstop O’Mara bobbled Heinie Zimmerman’s grounder.14 Saier, who led all batters with three hits on the day and also walked twice, singled to left field to make the score 7-2.

Each team plated a run in the fifth to make the score 8-3. The Cubs scored theirs in a station-to-station sequence involving a walk, a sacrifice, a single, another walk, and another sacrifice. The Robins notched theirs on a double, a single, and a wild throw by Archer on a steal of second base.15 (One news account suggested that the Cubs were hoping the game would be called after 4½ innings. It was not.16)

Brooklyn tacked on two more runs in the sixth using three walks, two singles, and a sacrifice, leaving the bases loaded. Stengel and Cutshaw drove in the runs with singles. Piling on, the Robins made it 11-3 in the eighth: Wheat led off with a triple and, one out later, Myers’ infield single scored him.

Pfeffer entered the ninth with his first win in sight, but the Cubs wouldn’t roll over. Frank “Wildfire” Schulte led off with his second homer of the season, a belt over the right-field fence.17 One out later, the persistent Saier doubled to right and Williams singled him in to bring the final score to 11-5.18 Pfeffer retired Archer and Phelan to close out the game in 2 hours and 15 minutes.

The teams combined for 24 hits – “The independent order of free and loose swingers held a field day,” said the New York Tribune19 – and Pfeffer and Cheney also handed out six and four walks respectively. The weather overshadowed all aspects of the game, though, being blamed for pitchers’ inability to throw strikes and fielders’ difficulties making routine throws. “Spikes would hold nowhere on the playing field. It was impossible to keep balls dry. Accurate throwing was simply an accident,” summed up the New York Sun.20

Pfeffer finished the season 19-14 with a 2.10 ERA, leading Brooklyn in both wins and WAR (6.4). Cheney slipped to 8-11 for the full season; in August he was traded to Brooklyn for Schultz and $3,000.21 At season’s end, the Robins and Cubs stood in third and fourth place respectively, with records of 80-72 and 73-80.22 The Cubs also led the NL in errors, with 268, compared with a league average of 233.


Acknowledgments and author’s note

This story was fact-checked by Mike Huber and copy-edited by Len Levin. It is part of a project by the author to write stories on all eight American, National, and Federal League games played on May 12, 1915.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author used the and websites for general player, team, and season data and the box scores for this game.

Photo credit: Larry Cheney, SABR-Rucker Archive.



1 “Pfeffer Wins First Game for Superbas in the Mud,” New York Tribune, May 13, 1915: 14.

2 Mark S. Halfon, Tales from the Deadball Era: Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the Wildest Times in Baseball History (Lincoln, Nebraska: Potomac Books, 2014), 189. 

3 Musing on a five-error inning by the 2017 Seattle Mariners – the first since the 1977 Cubs did it – baseball writer Daniel R. Epstein calculated that a team playing a 162-game schedule will play a four-error inning roughly every 37 years and a five-error inning once every 559 years. Epstein, “The Probability of a Five-Error Inning,” Banished to the Pen blog, posted August 28, 2017.

4 Pfeffer’s height and weight are listed as 6-feet-3 and 210 pounds. His competitive streak is chronicled in his SABR biography: John Bennett, “Jeff Pfeffer,” SABR Biography Project, accessed February 2024,

5 The Robins made three errors in the May 11 game, while the Cubs made one.

6 Jim Moyes, “Larry Cheney,” SABR Biography Project, accessed February 2024,

7 I.E. Sanborn, “Robins Deluge Cubs in Storm of Runs,” Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1915: 10. “Seven hundred or so” from “Rice,” “Superbas Evolve Sure Way to Win Pennant,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 13, 1915: 16. “Fifteen hundred” from “Chicago Cubs Not Bears in the Mud,” New York Sun, May 13, 1915: 10.

8 Sam Weller, “Brooklyn Rain Fails to Make Whales Happy,” Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1915: 10.

9 “Chicago Cubs Not Bears in the Mud” reported that Cheney “cuffed [the ball] to the stands,” suggesting that he made contact with it. Sanborn, in “Robins Deluge Cubs in Storm of Runs,” said the pitcher “diverted the ball out of all reach.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that it was unclear whether Cheney touched the ball, but it was clear that he interfered with Archer’s fielding of it. “Rice,” “Superbas Evolve Sure Way to Win Pennant.”

10  Sanborn, “Robins Deluge Cubs in Storm of Runs.”

11 “Rice,” “Superbas Evolve Sure Way to Win Pennant.”

12 “Rice.”

13 “Rice.”

14 The New York Sun described O’Mara’s play as a “fumble,” while the Chicago Tribune called it a “boot.” No published account suggests it was a throwing error. “Chicago Cubs Not Bears in the Mud”; Sanborn, “Robins Deluge Cubs in Storm of Runs.”

15 Retrosheet suggests the Robins’ fifth-inning run scored on a passed ball against Archer. However, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and New York Times both reported that a wild throw by Archer allowed the run to score. “Rice,” “Superbas Evolve Sure Way to Win Pennant”; “Dodgers Vanquish Bresnahan’s Cubs,” New York Times, May 13, 1915: 12.

16 “Dodgers Vanquish Bresnahan’s Cubs.”

17  “Rice,” “Superbas Evolve Sure Way to Win Pennant”; “Dodgers Vanquish Bresnahan’s Cubs.” Schulte finished the season with 12 homers, second on the Cubs to Cy Williams’s 13.

18 Williams also swiped second and third base while Pfeffer was getting the final out. Presumably, these steals would be scored in the twenty-first century as defensive indifference.

19 “Pfeffer Wins First Game for Superbas in the Mud.”

20 “Chicago Cubs Not Bears in the Mud.”

21 Cheney’s SABR biography, cited above, says Cubs manager Bresnahan had little patience for pitchers with poor control. This led Bresnahan to remove Cheney early from games and ultimately to get him traded.

22 The Robins tied two games and the Cubs three.

Additional Stats

Brooklyn Robins 11
Chicago Cubs 5

Ebbets Field
Brooklyn, NY


Box Score + PBP:

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1910s ·